Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Chez Panisse Comes Back

Chez Panisse reopened this week, 3-1/2 months after the March 8th fire. Two of the articles celebrating the reopening, on Bon Appetit and Huffington Post, remind me why Chez Panisse matters. Besides, if it weren't enough, for all it's done for food, eaters, and growers in the past 42 years.

To me it's about a shared vision. It's about optimism, and a sense of family. It's about working hard, but also having plenty of fun. Tasting all the while. I haven't really been around the restaurant, other than the occasional lunch every year or so, in more than 25 years. When I go, I'm always aware of how few familiar faces I see. I'm also aware of the faces that are still there, and faces that are long gone--some gone from the restaurant, some gone from this life. 

A couple of weeks ago I stopped in with my parents. People were working hard to get the restaurant ready for its reopening. And not only the carpenters. Waiters and cooks were bustling around, some cleaning, some working on refinishing chairs. Cooks were bringing up a lunch for everyone. I had to hold myself back from the bowl of tapioca pudding with cherries. Comfort food. 

Incidentally, in the last week I also saw that the New York Times 'Room for Debate'  section was discussing the question of tipping. Which led me to a few articles from past years about the question of tipping in restaurants. Chez Panisse adds a service charge to all checks; further tipping, while allowed, is not expected. It makes sense to me. I like the idea of a business that works together. The employers paying their workers a living wage, complete with health care, vacation and sick leave. The idea that the employers have a responsibility to their workers as well as to their customers and suppliers. The idea that the workers are part of the business, and that the way they do their jobs matters. That they have a responsibility to their co-workers, employers, and customers. Seems like it serves everyone--employer, worker, and diner--well.

Reading about how Chez Panisse got through the fire, I couldn't help thinking, once again, that the restaurant really is a family. Like any family, it has its share of struggles, and is always evolving. Like most families, the people there matter--and the family comes through best of all when everyone is in it together. 

Here is a few of those articles:
New York Times, October 9, 2008, 'Why Tip'
U.S. News and World Report, March 16, 2009, 'Alice Waters: Why Her Waiters Don't Expect Traditional Tips'

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You say Bruschetta...

Or, I hope you say bruschetta. That is, broo-sket-ta. Certainly not broo-shet-ta!

Most mornings when I open the newspaper I only notice how thin it has become. Or that I'm reading a story I read somewhere else 3 days ago. Or I wonder why so much of the newly thin newspaper is give over to covering high school proms.

But today was different. As I read through the food section, I shocked Pavel by saying,  "I'm going to send the Oregonian a thank you note." That made him look up from the business section. "What for?" he asked. I'm pretty sure he expected a sarcastic reply.

But I am genuinely thankful. Because today's Small Bites column tells people how to pronounce bruschetta, gnocchi (hint:  it's not noh-kee), and Sriracha.  I don't want to be too proud of myself. I tend to mumble the word Sriracha, so I did take note of  its correct pronunciation (shree-ra-cha).

You know that awkward moment, when you're in a restaurant--or just a conversation--and someone mispronounces a word like bruschetta, and you don't know how to respond? If you pronounce it properly, they may be embarrassed at their own mistake. Or worse, they might think you're an idiot for not knowing how to say the word! I'm hoping that the Oregonian has done a little bit to ease these moments.

Now if only they could do something about a few other words. My daughter complains about croissant, but I give people leeway on that one. Mainly because I find it impossible to pronounce properly. My stumbling word is crêpe. I know that one's been anglicized, and now rhymes with 'grape' rather than 'hep'. But I feel so silly saying crape!

Full disclosure. While I say crêpe, rhyming with 'hep', for the food and the fabric (crêpe de chine), I do say crape paper when I'm planning a celebration and need streamers. Which means I'm inconsistent. What did you expect.

How about you? Any food words you want people to say properly?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Eating Every Day Undercover

My father keeps a daily blog, 'Eating Every Day' (he's far more disciplined than I am!) about his meals. I wrote a piece, years back, about it for Gourmet's online site. Since I live in a different state, I have long enjoyed being able to keep up with my parents, and even feel a bit as if I'm at their table.

Right now though, Dad is off climbing Mt. Whitney with my husband and son. And I'm sitting at his place at the table with Mom. Ok, actually, I'm sitting across from Mom. Somehow it didn't seem completely right, or even remotely possible, to take his place.

So here goes. Eating Day, undercover (which also isn't quite right--that should be Dad taking over my blog!).

I got here Wednesday, and apparently it was the perfect day to arrive. In terms of leftovers, I mean. There was some delicious grilled steak, and potato salad loaded with dill, along with a few artichokes and some lemon mayonnaise.

(Here's Dad's post about that steak and potato salad's first day)

At my parents', there is always salad after dinner. We also have salad after dinner every night. But Mom and Dad really have salad every night. Mom mixed it with walnut oil and some quince vinegar a friend had made.

The day before I flew down, Mom had posted a picture of a cherry pie on facebook. I commented that I hoped there were leftovers. And there were. Lucky, lucky me. At this point, I have to say I feel a little guilty enjoying the last of the pie. While I think about the freeze dried dinners Dad is eating on the mountain. But it would be ungrateful to let let that guilt get in the way of enjoying my pie. So I didn't wallow in guilt.

Thursday morning, after eating a half an apricot that was dripping in syrup, Mom asked me to pick out some jam for our breakfast.

It's always a daunting choice here, with everything from the pear marmalade of my childhood and apricot jam (always with a pit or two for flavor) to exotic citrus marmalades. Today the choice was dictated by the jar. Mom's refrigerator is, as nearly always, overflowing with intriguing bits and pieces. So I needed to pick a jar of jam that would fit nicely into the refrigerator.

That was an easy call: Plum butter. I do love plums. And a bonus--it was in a Kerr jar, and I had just read an article about Albertina Kerr--I'd never put together the fact that Kerr was a Portland company.

Mom and I lazed away our day, so we didnt' eat lunch, back at home, until 4 PM. An efficient afternoon of eating--lunch, think about waht to have for dinner, then dinner. And what did we have? Lunch was some slices of salami from Diavolo, bread, carrots, and an apple.

For dinner we had the last of that delicious potato salad, along with a vegetable saute. Green garlic, a few of Dad's purple potatoes, peas, and some summer squash.

Dessert two days in a row! Mom made an apricot cake.

Since I'm writing this Friday morning, I might as well show you my breakfast today too. Yesterday, while we were poking around Healdsburg, I splurged and bought myself a quart of St. Benoit Jersey milk (I also got some of their plum yogurt to try soon). You should have seen the plug of cream on the top. Heated for my coffee, it looked as if there were bits of butter floating on the surface.

As I sliced bread for our toast (Como from Downtown Bakery), Mom said we had to eat the apricots. Sigh.

It's a hard life, and I'm glad I can help out by filling in for Dad.

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